Last season was one to forget for the Philadelphia Flyers.
Injuries, ineffective play and the ongoing saga with Ilya Bryzgalov, even if he was playing well at times, played a part in the Flyers crashing out of contention and missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2006-07.
After years of low-salary goaltenders, the Flyers splurged on Bryzgalov but terminated that relationship this summer, two seasons into a nine-year, $51 million contract. Now Philadelphia is back to not spending much on a chronic problem, in part because there wasn't much NHL salary-cap space left to allocate.
2013-14 FANTASY PREVIEW: FLYERS
Under-valued: Wayne Simmonds --
His 0.71 points per game (15 goals, 17 assists in 45 games) were easily the best of his career, and the forward is starting to become one of fantasy hockey's best all-around players (perhaps following Corey Perry's footsteps?). His plus/minus could use improvement, but his power-play production makes up for that (16 power-play points last season).
Over-valued: Kimmo Timonen --
Timonen's 29 points were tied for sixth among NHL defenseman, with 17 coming on the power play. Unfortunately, the addition of Mark Streit could mean Timonen will see less power-play ice time (3:48 per game last season). The 38-year-old is still a must-own fantasy player, but expect regression in 2013-14.
Sleeper: Steve Mason --
This Mason/Ray Emery tandem might just work for the Flyers, and Mason should be the most valuable goalie of the pair by season's end. A change of scenery could be what Mason needed, and if his seven games with the Flyers were a sign last year (four wins, 1.90 goals-against average, .944 save percentage), then good things might be in line.
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Ray Emery had a fine season as the backup in Chicago, and he was signed to compete with Steve Mason in net. Mark Streit doesn't solve the problem of Philadelphia's aging defense, but he should make the unit better. Danny Briere signed with the Montreal Canadiens and Vincent Lecavalier was added essentially as his replacement.
There should be less drama without Bryzgalov, but goaltending could be an issue. There are a lot of older players on this team, and injuries could again be a problem. If the Flyers stay healthy and some of those who regressed last season perform better, Philadelphia can be a playoff team again. If not, there could be some drastic changes next offseason.
Here is the projected 2013-14 lineup for the Flyers:
Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jakub Voracek
Brayden Schenn - Vincent Lecavalier - Wayne Simmonds
Scott Laughton - Sean Couturier - Matt Read
Zac Rinaldo - Maxime Talbot - Adam Hall
Kimmo Timonen - Luke Schenn
Mark Streit - Braydon Coburn
Erik Gustafsson - Nicklas Grossmann
Andrej Meszaros - Marc-Andre Bourdon
NOTES: Laughton should have a chance to become a regular, and with him the top nine seems set. Several of those nine will be looking to put up offensive numbers more like they did in 2011-12 than last season.
Emery and Mason could end up splitting duties. Mason played better than he has in years once arriving in Philadelphia, but some of that could certainly be chalked up to a small sample size. Emery was great for Chicago last season but had a better defensive team in front of him.
There will be several questions about the defense during training camp. Philadelphia has 10 defensemen signed to one-way contracts worth more than $34 million, and it still could be the team's biggest weakness. Chris Pronger will be placed on long-term injury reserve to reduce that figure to nine, but Bruno Gervais and Marc-Andre Bourdon could be in danger of being exposed to waivers depending on how many the Flyers decide to keep (and if everyone can stay healthy).
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